Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

by Conor Caldwell (Mathematics), published November 23rd 2010

What do Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver, Kid Cudi, Elton John, Chris Rock, Raekwon, Fergie, and Gil Scott-Heron have in common? They are all featured on the new Kanye West album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. West’s long-awaited fifth studio album dropped November 22, and was easily my most anticipated release of the year. I could go on about this album for pages. I have to admit that I’m pretty biased when it comes to Kanye. I’ve been an active member of his top fan site, KanyeToThe (formerly KanyeLive,) since 2007. My sister says that this whole album could’ve just been dogs barking and I would still rave about it. While she might be right, that is surely not the case here.

808s & Heartbreak, his 2008 Autotune breakup album, may have fell on deaf ears to the majority of Ye’s audience, myself included, but you have to understand and respect why he did it. And after listening to its influence on this album, I now view it as a necessary stepping-stone in West’s career. Really, this album shows influence from what was the best of all four previous albums: the gritty lyricism and soul-sampling of College Dropout, the grandiose orchestral melodies of Late Registration, the stadium-rock style of Graduation, and the brutally honest Autotuned lyrics of 808s & Heartbreak. Sure, West might be arrogant, but can you really call him cocky if he has the talent to back it up?  Both production-wise and lyrically, you can see how far he has come, and glimpses of where he may go.

In my opinion, this is his best album yet. I generally don’t like to make claims like that with the album out for such a short period of time, but I am confident in this. Every track is a hit. As far as production is concerned, West has been considered one of the top hip-hop producers for years now, and for this album, he recruited the best hip-hop producers to help him, including Rza, DJ Premier, Q-Tip, and Pete Rock. While Rza is only credited for co-production on one track, I think that the album really shows his influence more than any of the others’. “Monster” and “So Appalled” are gritty rap tracks at their finest, full of features, hard-hitting break beats, and great lyrical skill. “All Of The Lights” and “Lost In The World” have epic, wall-of-sound qualities, perfect for filling the huge arenas that West will be spending a lot of time in over the next year or so.  Then there is the “All Of The Lights Interlude,” which is one of the more simple, yet beautiful, instrumental pieces that I’ve heard in recent memory, or ever if we are just talking about hip-hop albums. Almost every track is over four or five minutes, mostly due to beautiful instrumental sequences. The guitar solo bridge in “Devil In A New Dress” stick out in my mind as a highlight. “Dark Fantasy” might be my favorite track on the album, and it is definitely one of my favorite intros on an album. I had thought for the last few years that “Good Morning,” the first track on Graduation, was the best album intro I had heard, but “Dark Fantasy” blows it out of he water. After the choir sings a few rounds, the beat drops, and already the album sounds beautiful, dark, and twisted. You can’t help but immediately bob your head along with it. Ten seconds later, when the beat cuts out as West comes in rapping, I can’t help but get chills.

Lyrically, West has always worn his heart on his sleeve, through his music.  This album is no different.  You can taste the emotion in every second of every song. I think that “Gorgeous” (featuring Kid Cudi) and “Blame Game” (featuring John Legend) stand out as the best tracks, lyrically. I never thought I would say this about a track, but Raekwon, who is arguably the best lyricist in Wu-Tang, which is arguably the greatest rap group ever, comes off as almost an afterthought in “Gorgeous,” which is absolutely amazing to me.  ”Blame Game” is deeper, about not being able to get over a lover, something just about everyone can relate to.  With heavy piano and John Legend on the hook, it’s one of the best songs on the album.

Even seemingly trivial tracks like “So Appalled,” which is my least favorite song on the album, have lyrics with deeper meanings, as West raps at one point “N****s is goin through real shit man they outta work/ That’s why another goddamn dance track gotta hurt/ That’s why I rather spit somethin that gotta purp.” I don’t think that the album’s perfect, because no album with Fergie and Rick Ross features could be, but it’s damn close. It’s light years ahead of the competition.

With a supplemental short film and five album covers that you can rotate through, this truly is a work of art. In a year when everyone in hip-hop has been caught up listening to newcomers who are sure to end up flopping (Wiz Khalifa) or are just incredibly overrated in the first place (Drake), West comes out with an album that reminds us why we listen to music. It’s so exciting and different, yet still the same old Ye that most people hate to love. You can argue with me all you want, and Imma let you finish, but Kanye West just made one of the greatest hip-hop albums OF ALL TIME.

Rating: 4.9/5

Recommended Tracks: “Dark Fantasy,” “Gorgeous,” “Blame Game” and “Lost In The World”

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